Joanne Collins might be retired, but that doesn’t mean she plans to sit around and do nothing.
Just the opposite, in fact.
Instead of sitting around, Collins, 60, is running, biking and swimming as she preps for this weekend’s 37th annual USA Triathlon Age Group Standard Distance and Sprint (Non-Drafting) Triathlon National Championship in Cleveland.
The Avon resident has already qualified to this year’s ITU (International Triathlon Union) World Championships for the standard distance (also known as the Olympic distance) and sprint triathlons in Lausanne, Switzerland, set for Aug. 31 and Sept. 1.
A good showing this weekend and she will also qualify for the 2020 ITU (International Triathlon Union) Age Group Standard Distance and Sprint World Championships set for next Aug. 17-23 in Edmonton, Alberta.
“I hired a coach, Daniel Smith, that’s really helped me specifically with the swimming,” Collins said. “He’s been a great swim coach for me. We’ve been working together for the last three years.”
A 30-year veteran of the three-sport competition, she currently trains with PR Triathlon Club and the Cleveland Triathlon Club. She first got into the triathlon in the late 1980s because of its cross-training appeal after having recurring injuries as a runner.
“Running was always my thing,” Collins said. “When I got injured pretty badly from running, I started swimming and biking to cross-train. I decided that if I was going to put all this effort in swimming and cycling I might as well do a triathlon. After doing several local races like the NCN (North Coast Nautilus) triathlons, I discovered that I was pretty good so that kind of got me excited and I stayed with it.”
She’s been in love with the sport ever since.
“I enjoy it, but it’s also because of the people,” Collins said. “The other people on the team (Team PR) keep me motivated and encouraged. And, of course, I enjoy going to the races.”
Smith is proud of and impressed with his star pupil.
“Joanne came to me a few years ago looking for direction on changing up her training,” said Smith, who has also been Avon Lake High School’s swim coach since the 2013-14 season. “After racing so many years you tend to get into the same training plan and forget to focus on some things that are necessary as you progress in age and in talent.
“Joanne needed help with swim technique, as well as an overall fine-tuning of her mental focus on her goals, how to reach them and having confidence that leads to better racing. She is one of the most dedicated, hardworking athletes I’ve met in 37 years of racing and coaching in triathlon. I’ve really enjoyed coaching and racing alongside of her and the team.”
Collins has found another benefit from her triathlon endeavors.
“My injuries have stayed down,” Collins said. “It’s not like running. Running beats up your body so much. We’ve got some pretty good people on Dan’s team and I’ve learned a lot. My main training partner is Kristine Urban. We just did a 100-mile bike.”
Collins is also training for the Louisville (Ky.) Ironman in October. It will be her second Ironman after competing in Ironman Maryland in 2016. She missing qualifying for the Ironman World Championships at Kona in Hawaii by only four minutes, 39 seconds.
“They only took the top finisher in my age group and I was second,” Collins said. “You pretty much have to win your age group to earn a guaranteed spot (at Kona). The only way they take extra people from an age group is if there’s a ton of people in an age category.”
Being on the young side of her age bracket (60-64) could work in her favor as far as qualifying for Kona.
“The timing for this race fits in well for me,” Collins said of the Louisville competition. “I’m back from Switzerland and then it’s six weeks later and it’s close enough that I can drive there. That was another criteria for me. And the run is flat. They said that the bike is hilly, but the run is flat. I don’t mind a hilly bike but I prefer a flat run. By the time I get to the run, especially now that I’m old, I prefer a flatter run.”
Collins competed in road races exclusively in her late 20s and early 30s prior to getting into triathlons. A 1977 graduate of Olmsted Falls High School, she was a member of the junior varsity boys team as a sophomore, junior and senior because Falls didn’t have a girls varsity program at the time.
A retired self-employed IT specialist, she’s happy to chase her passion on a full-time basis these days.
“I love being in shape,” Collins said. “At 60 years old, I did a 100-mile bike ride and it felt like nothing. It’s nice to be in that kind of shape. And you enjoy it so much. And, like I said, I get to meet people and I get to travel based on races. Like with Switzerland, after going there to race, my husband and I are going to do some sightseeing. I’ve been all over Europe before and done a lot of cycling and hiking tours.”
Competing against the world’s best is pretty cool, too.
“I’m welcoming the experience,” Collins said. “It’s intimidating as well. I want to do well for myself. I don’t care too much about the placement because I want the experience of it.”